Feature photo: Kiliansplatz with stage and stands
A constant drop wears away the stone, and so it is not surprising that after more than seven years of annoying parts of the city administration, we volunteers are dropping our flags and nobody Meeting point Europe organize more in Heilbronn.
Admittedly, this also has something to do with the lack of participation on the part of some of our partner clubs, but these have also been popular goals with the city administration in recent years, with city administration employees wherever possible stirring up discord between the clubs and also the EUROPA-UNION tried.
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But now from the beginning...
The meeting point Europe has always been teamwork, because that's the only way it could establish itself in Heilbronn. For years, the EUROPA-UNION Heilbronn tried to Friedlinde Gurr-Hirsch and dr Manfred Weinman around to make this festival possible. than it then dr Walter Dorr and Günther Erlewein managed to win enough clubs with a migration background for this festival more than 30 years ago, it was an immediate success.
The then mayor dr Manfred Weinman took advantage of the moment and motivated everyone involved to move this festival to Kiliansplatz. Now that the municipal council was also willing to financially support the meeting point Europe — the Heilbronn festival for international understanding — the volunteers were able to organize it there accordingly, since, among other things, costs for the 100 square meter stage and the many stands were added.
Despite the voluntary commitment of all those involved and the very inexpensive or even free offers of all supporting companies, the budget of the meeting place Europe was always lower than the necessary total expenditure. And right from the start, EUROPA-UNION accepted these differences, as they deliberately neither wanted to professionalize this public festival nor turn it into an endless subsidy event on the part of the city.
So it was also perfectly fine that every penny and later every cent that the EUROPA-UNION received from the municipal council for the organization of the meeting point Europe was turned over several times by the association before it was actually spent. And it was always a matter of course that the Heilbronn tax office checked this and that a folder with all the receipts went to the city administration every year, where every single receipt was checked again by very hard-working employees.
As tax-paying citizens, we valued this complete transparency right from the start, whereby the members of the EUROPA-UNION were also informed every year in the corresponding annual report and we had to justify the differences we had made to them again and again.
I can therefore say with complete justification that there is hardly any other event whose finances were planned and monitored so meticulously - the Sparheimer was always at the table!
So it was very helpful and enjoyable that both dr Manfred Weinman as well as Helmut Himmelbach intervened as mayor of the city of Heilbronn when it became apparent in advance that the meeting point Europe would not be able to keep its absolutely necessary budget, especially since the subsidies approved by the municipal council have remained the same for years and increasing them was a very lengthy process.
When I from dr Walter Dorr After taking over the association's business in 2005, I also assumed responsibility for the European meeting place and was very happy that the latter offered to conduct the upcoming negotiations to increase the corresponding budget on the part of the municipal council. And we were all happy that he was able to do this in 2008 and that the meeting point Europe was now supported by the municipal council with a total of 14 euros. As already said, this is only part of the cost and a real bargain for the city to be able to present itself as cosmopolitan and tolerant.
Unfortunately, as the person responsible for the meeting place Europe, I soon had to realize that the city administration had completely different interests than what was so beautifully presented to the outside world. At first I suspected that this was due to well-guarded prejudices against people from Heilbronn who had immigrated, but then I was told that there was a very banal reason for this.
The mayor responsible at the time, who is now mayor, had himself thrown a nice event in Heilbronn into the ground and was therefore not only very reserved towards the successful European meeting place, but also - whenever possible - exerting influence to its detriment.
Knowing this and having been warned from several quarters, I nevertheless made a major and momentous misjudgment — I overestimated the competencies of the Heilbronn municipal council and also underestimated the effectiveness of self-generating and poorly controlled administrations.
And if there hadn't been the support of a few department heads and employees of the city administration, the European meeting place would have been history much earlier. In order to mitigate the negative influence of the mayor, who is responsible for the European meeting place, we included one of his party friends on our board and also gave her the task of city councilor to maintain good relations with the municipal council.
For me the world was right again, and when there were new demands from the city administration for the European meeting place, which I completely incomprehensible after all these years, I simply ignored them and relied on the existing support of the more responsible city employees.
So for many years I was spared having to ask the municipal council for an increase in the municipal subsidy. Although there were no big leaps, but with the support of Helmut Himmelbach and a few city department heads, we managed to continue to support the meeting point Europe, with the city subsidy reaching 2015 euros in 17.
Highly motivated by the 19th Meeting Point Europe, I was already thinking that this could not only be increased, but also had to be. We were confirmed in this by administrative staff from another large city, who came to us and found out about the possibility of organizing such a festival in their city.
Ultimately, this initiative failed because of the overall costs, which the city could not or did not want to bear without a corresponding voluntary basis. However, this confirmed once again that we from Heilbronn were on the right track.
However, inquiries from our partner associations and also from the active members of the EUROPA-UNION as to whether it would be possible to further expand the European meeting point revealed that this would not be possible for the volunteers, even if there were better financing for the European meeting point .
So I designed several models to slowly expand the meeting point Europe. One of these ideas, namely to always include all Heilbronn twin towns in the European meeting place, was presented to our mayor Helmut Himmelbach already prepared for the 20th Meeting Point Europe. Although he didn't think the idea was bad, he first thought of the additional costs that would be incurred, but he agreed to involve all partner cities at the 25th European Meeting Point.
Very suddenly for all of us, the change at the top of the town hall came at the 25th European meeting point, and a headwind developed into a full-fledged storm overnight. With that, the idea of getting all twin towns on board was off the table, and it became increasingly difficult to even get a twin town for Meeting Point Europe.
The mayor's reception for people from Heilbronn with a history of immigration, which had always taken place on the eve of the meeting point Europe since 1984 and since 1991, also disappeared "overnight".
In addition, more and more urban “experts” came to us, whether invited or not, and explained to us how we want to set up the meeting place Europe much better, completely differently and, above all, more professionally from now on. According to the new mayor, it must be at least two days.
The ideas also became more and more fun — e.g. professional stand operators instead of our partner associations — and the pressure built up by the city administration also increased. Especially since employees of the city administration had more and more talks with our partner associations.
At first we even welcomed this sudden concern for our partner associations on the part of the city administration, until we unfortunately had to realize that this is primarily about new administrative posts and subsidy payments, but not about the weal and woe of the fellow citizens affected.
Unfortunately, until today, the city administration has only had great ideas and sometimes abstruse ideas and demands on how we have to make the meeting place Europe different.
The conditions imposed by the city administration and the financial requirements to be raised for this were also increasing, which we were able to compensate for through the voluntary commitment of other city administration employees.
Nevertheless, it was inevitable that, slowly but surely, financing Europe as a meeting place became more and more difficult.
As expected, there were no more signals of support from the city administration - apart from the smug remarks of the new mayor, where he still sees potential for savings at the meeting point Europe.
This saving was also an affair of the heart for my predecessor dr Walter Dorr to the victim, namely the annual brochure on the meeting point Europe.
Personally, I still took the whole thing in a sporty way for far too long and I always looked forward to the mayor biting his calves on the stage of the European meeting place during the annual opening, because then I was sure that the current European meeting place would be on again will become success.
In 2018 the time had already come. A treasury collapse of our association showed that we will not be able to raise another European meeting place without increasing the financial aid of the city.
Many of our partner companies had increased the prices for their services for years or never before, and also the other ancillary costs and fees, such as e.g. B for GEMA inevitably increased. And all potential savings had already been exhausted. Every further meeting place Europe would affect the financial substance of the own club.
And so we pulled our last ace out of our sleeve and officially applied for an increase in the subsidy for the Europa meeting point by 2019 euros for the 2020/3 double budget!
We also informed the factions in the municipal council and all “our” municipal council members about this application. “Our” contact person for the municipal council was also involved. That's why we received only positive signals from all sides in advance.
So we were very surprised on the board of the association when the municipal double budget was decided without our 3 euros. The official justification: "You forgot it."
Alea iacta is!
Completely disillusioned, we already wanted to take the consequences when some municipal employees, who are concerned with Heilbronn and not with the well-being of the party, built a bridge to the upcoming double budget.
Our partner clubs also asked us to continue supporting the meeting point Europe, and our own club members gratefully supported this decision. We were also very pleased that all our partner companies pulled together and thus made the 30th Meeting Point Europe 2019 possible and would have made the 31st Meeting Point Europe possible.
Since we had now taken this step, we had to - against all better knowledge - also take the next step!
After consultation with the responsible office in the city administration for the city's double budget 2021/2022, we again submitted a subsidy application for the meeting point Europe, but now in the amount of 5 euros.
Of course, we informed the factions in the municipal council in advance and received positive signals from at least two factions, namely the FDP and the Free Voters, which unfortunately no longer meant anything, since the municipal council decided in favor of a joint “mayor election campaign aid” and only logically the meeting point Europe no longer played a role.
The official justification this time: "No club got anything."
The really "impossible" thing about it, however, is that the EUROPA-UNION as an association has never received anything from the city of Heilbronn, but the city of Heilbronn only subsidized the meeting point Europe, so that this festival as a figurehead for the city of Heilbronn and its respective mayor can take place on Kiliansplatz.
All "received" funds were only "transit items" and flowed back to the city when not needed. You really can't decorate yourself cheaper with someone else's feathers!
I have to mention it here because it took me a long time to understand this admittedly skilful calf biting. Because for a long time I didn't understand the statements of other club chairmen who promised the EUROPA-UNION special treatment by the city of Heilbronn. Only when I looked at the municipal budget and found the EUROPA-UNION as a beneficiary did it all really make sense - this is how you can create a mood with false entries! And so one piece of the puzzle comes together after the other.
Therefore, after consultation with our partner associations, our partners in the city administration, our partner companies and the city councils we trust, we have now pulled the emergency brake and suspended the meeting place Europe for the time being.
Since we citizens of Heilbronn now have to prepare ourselves for another eight years of administrative work below ground and then the administration will certainly need many years to recover from it, it looks very bad for another European meeting point, at least in Heilbronn.
But maybe that's a good thing, because with the meeting point Europe we have fooled the citizens and our guests into a perfect world that actually does not exist in the minds of the relevant people in Heilbronn and therefore does not come into play in our city society.